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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2130037
Jess anxiously waits while Charlotte undergoes surgery. Contest entry about waiting.
Mara put her hand on my knee. I hadn't realized I'd been bouncing it. I glanced at her, chagrined, but she smiled at me in the soft way she had that always set me at ease. She hadn't done it because she was annoyed with me the way some would but rather because she was offering comfort. My shoulders dropped with the release of tension and my lungs filled with air.

"Jess, honey, everything is going to be okay." Mara had such a graceful smile, and her voice was soothing. I didn't have the confidence she had, but her confidence still set me a little more at east. I stretched as well as I could in the stiff hospital chair, and a crackle of popping joints clicked up my spine and flitted through my shoulders. It felt good, and I was able to enjoy it for about thirty-seven seconds before I jumped up. I walked a few feet down the hall, came back, walked a few feet away, and came back. It was not helpful, but I was too keyed up to sit still.

Mara was right. Charlotte was having routine surgery. Just a little thing, having an appendix out. But she'd been so sick, and I'd been so scared. And things could always go wrong in surgery. Nothing in life was guaranteed, and the woman I loved with all my heart had been in unimaginable pain and sicker than I'd ever seen her, including that time we got food poisoning.

I had thought I'd known fear. I'd almost been t-boned by a truck. I'd come out to my conservative family and found myself disowned. I, terrified of heights as I was, had zip-lined over Niagra Falls.

Those things had been scary. What I felt now I could only describe as terror.

"She'll be out soon. Don't worry." I'd forgotten Mara was still sitting there.

"You are a Godsend." I sat back down cracking my knuckles and twisting my fingers around.

"She's going to make fun of you for worrying like this."

It was my turn to laugh. "Yeah, she will. I look forward to it."

"I'm glad she has you."

"It's me who's lucky. Not only do I have her, but she shares you and Frank with me."

Mara brushed imaginary hair from my eyes, just to pet me. "We would've adopted you if you and Charlotte hadn't decided to get married. You were always meant to be part of our family."

My heart squeezed tight in my chest, and my lungs froze up. I tried not to cry, but I couldn't help sniffling, and I had to wipe away a few tears. My family wasn't speaking to me, and sometimes I missed them. I loved them, but I had loved myself more. And they had hated that I was gay more than they had loved me. But Charlotte loved me like the spring sun and her family loved me too. I couldn't bear losing her.

"She'll be fine."

I nodded. Charlotte was the most stubborn person I'd ever met so there was no way that she wouldn't be okay.

I was able to sit in relative quiet and stillness for seven minutes. The pacing or the knee jiggling was about to start up again, I just knew it, but a doctor came out.

I raced to him, words locked in my throat choking me alongside the fear.

"It was a good thing you all didn't come in any later than you did, but it looks like she's going to be okay. We are going to keep her overnight to check that there is no infection from the rupture, but I believe she'll be going home tomorrow."

"See?" Mara elbowed me in the ribs, and I finally started breathing again. "She'll be giving you grief in no time."

I nodded. "When I can I see her?"

"We're getting her moved and settled, but you should be able to see her within the hour. The anesthesia should have worn off by then, but she'll be on pain medication and likely very sleepy so she may not be conscious when you see her." He gave us the details for her room, and I was mostly breathing normally again.

Mara hugged me and kissed my forehead when the doctor left. "There now, let's go find our girl."

I nodded, "Yes, please."
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